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An indwelling catheter is a flexible tube that’s put into your bladder to drain urine (pee). It’s held in place by a small, water-filled balloon inside your bladder. The catheter (often called a Foley) is connected to drainage bag tubing. Urine from the catheter drains through the tube into the drainage bag.
There are 2 types of drainage bags:
If you use a smaller bag during the day, you’ll need to connect the catheter or the smaller drainage bag to a larger drainage bag at night.
Always wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer before and after caring for your catheter. Use soap and water if your hands look dirty, not an alcohol-based sanitizer.
If you need help, it’s important that you ask someone who knows how to do catheter care.
Before you clean your catheter:
To clean your catheter:
Don’t let your drainage bag get too full. Empty the drainage bag when it is half to two-thirds full, and at least every 4 to 8 hours. You should also empty the bag if you switch from one type of drainage bag to another.
You may need to empty the smaller drainage bag more often, if you use one during the day.
Always wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer before and after you empty the drainage bag.
If you need to measure and record the amount of urine in the bag:
Pale, clear, yellow, mild smell
If you don’t need to measure your urine, drain it into the toilet after you take off the stopper or clamp.
When emptying the drainage bag:
Change to a new drainage bag:
If you are switching from a smaller bag (leg bag) to a larger bag (night bag) every day, then you should change each to a new bag every 7 days.
Keep the cap on the end of the tubing of your drainage bags between changes.
If you have home care or other type of nursing care in your home, ask your case manager if you need to store any catheter supplies at home in case your catheter needs to be changed.
Always wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based sanitizer before you change your drainage bag.
To change your drainage bag:
Only remove the drainage bag from the catheter when you need to. Instead of removing a smaller bag from your catheter, you can attach a larger drainage bag to the drainage spout of the smaller bag so there’s more space for urine to drain during the night. Visit a health supply store for advice on how to connect your catheter and drainage supplies.
If you are switching between a smaller bag (leg bag) and a larger bag (night bag) every day, you will need to clean the bag you just removed so that it is ready to use again.
Clean and disinfect the sink and counter or other area where you will clean your bag. Always wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer before you clean your bag.
Get the following supplies before you begin cleaning your bag:
After changing your drainage bag:
If there isn’t any or much urine in the drainage bag:
If you still don’t see any urine collecting in the drainage bag, call your healthcare provider.
Drinking enough fluids can help prevent the catheter from getting plugged. If you’re drinking enough fluids, your urine should be pale yellow.
Drink enough fluids to also prevent constipation (when you have hard stool and trouble passing it). Constipation can cause the catheter to leak or not drain properly.
Call your healthcare provider if you have any of the following:
If you notice anything unusual with your catheter, make a note and let your healthcare provider know.
If you have questions about intimacy and sex, talk to your healthcare team. Your doctor and healthcare team are there to support you.
To see this information online and learn more, visit MyHealth.Alberta.ca/health/pages/conditions.aspx?Hwid=custom.ab_indwellingcatheter_inst.
For 24/7 nurse advice and general health information call Health Link at 811.
Current as of: November 21, 2023
Author: Home Care, Alberta Health Services
This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.